REVIEW: Keebler Limited Batch Strawberry Cheesecake Fudge Stripes

Within any collective community or “scene” there are always different levels of dedication. There are casual sports fans who might don a team’s hat when they’re doing well, and then the guy who shows up shirtless to every game painted in the team’s colors. There are listeners of metal music that may fancy themselves a nice studded bracelet, and then there are those true-to-the-core metalhead badasses who don’t own a single piece of non-black clothing. There are part-timers who punch in 23 hours at their workplace, and then those who crawl their way in on Sunday’s and never push less than 60. There are the Taco Bell’s who are dedicated to the insanity and the McDonald’s who never stray too far from the path. You get the picture.

In the junk food world the levels of dedication can be measured by limited time offerings, and while Oreo reigns supreme in coming out with kooky cookies (Swedish Fish, Cotton Candy), Keebler have yet to really take any risks since delving into the LTO-iverse last year…until now. While they’ve played it generally close to the vest with Pumpkin Spice, Lemon, and Cinnamon, this summer the Elves took their first step towards true dedication, trying a flavor that is no easy task and could ultimately lead to Fudge Stripe failure – Strawberry Cheesecake.

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Ripping open the soft pink and off-white packaging reveals a distinctly tangy and cheesecake-y aroma. It’s mellow but sharp, and surprisingly less strawberry-forward than what I expected. These cookies were shipped to me straight from the Elfin land of Keebler’s Hollow Tree, and quite a few of them took a crumble tumble in travel, but that shouldn’t effect the taste at all. The intact cookies share in the same rosy pink as the package with the signature white “fudge” stripes on the top.

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Wow – these cookies are awesome. Much like the initial smell, the flavor that I get smacked with immediately is cheesecake, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting these to taste like cheesecake at all. I was anticipating a wallop of too-sweet artificial strawberry flavor with a hint of nondescript creaminess, more akin to a strawberries and cream, but these are tangy and cheesy with a great balance of sweetness. I’m not a big fan of fake strawberry, and I don’t get much of that flavor here at all, it may even be closer to cherry, as it just has a slightly tart fruity essence beneath the layer of cheesecake.

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The texture, like all Fudge Stripes, is a soft-yet-crumbly shortbread that brings a nice hit of butteriness beneath the cheesy berry flavors. Much like the Lemon Stripes, the flavors here are all around a bit muted, but with such notoriously bold tart and tangy potential I really appreciate the subtly they come across with. The ratios are spot on with the berry taking the backseat, because no one ever eats a slice of cheesecake drowning in sauce, it acts as the acidic highlight to the decadent cake, and that’s exactly what these cookies do.

Rating: 8.5/10
Found at: Sent to me from Keebler but can be found in stores and online (approx. $3)

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REVIEW: Pro Supps MyBar Confetti Cake Crunch and Ice Cream Cookie Crunch

As a wise man once said, “you’ve gotta get your daily turd-shaped protein injection somehow…”. Okay, maybe no one ever really said that, but I love me a good protein bar and when a new one pops onto my radar I’m eager to get a taste – turd shaped or not. The Pro Supps MyBar came onto the scene within the last year but I had yet to see them in stores, and I’m not one to take a gamble on ordering a box of 12 blindly. As I strolled the selection of porta-gains at GNC I noticed two MyBar’s tucked away on the bottom shelf, and I knew the moment was mine for the taking.

The MyBar looks very much like a Combat Crunch or MuscleTech Nitro and texturally falls somewhere in between the two. The bar is noticeably smaller but has a pretty solid density to it that makes it feel hearty in my hands. It should be noted that while they have similar calories and protein to the CC and MT bars, they’re slightly higher fat (10 grams) and lower carb (17 grams), which could be a pro or con depending on what kind of macros you’re looking for in a protein pick-me-up.

Confetti Cake Crunch:

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Fortunately the flavor of the Confetti Crunch doesn’t have any of the weird lemony Froot Loops aura of the Combat Crunch and is much more in line with MuscleTech’s solid spin on cake. It starts off cake-y and channels frosting with some nice vanilla notes and definite party vibes. The taste fades quickly and ends pretty flat with a protein supplement finish that doesn’t live up to the sprinkle crunch texture of the bar. Eating this bar reminds me a lot of Zebra Stripe gum – it starts begins with a wonderful bold flavor that is gone almost as soon as it arrives.

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When all is said and done it simply isn’t sweet enough, and for a bar with 6 grams of sugar I would expect a bit more sugary push to round out the lovely frosting beginning. It isn’t disgusting, but doesn’t reach the high points of the MuscleTech or Oh Yeah! ONE, so I’m not sure why I would get this one again.

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Rating: 7/10

Quick Nutrition: 220 cals – 10g fat – 5g sat fat – 20mg cholesterol – 210mg sodium – 17g carb – 1g fiber – 6g sugar – 20g protein

Ice Cream Cookie Crunch:

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This bar has one of the more interesting names I’ve seen from a supplement company, and as good as an ice cream-y protein bar sounds I’m pretty skeptical of their ability to deliver. My suspicions are correct, as aside from a pretty notable creaminess in the outer chocolate coating of the bar, nothing translates ice cream here at all; not to mention ice cream doesn’t typically crunch, so the name is pretty confused overall.

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It’s a pretty standard chocolate coated chocolate protein that has a nice dense-yet-soft, almost truffle kind of texture, with only a bit of decent flavor to back it up. Much like the confetti, it begins pretty sweet with some crunchy bits and fades very quickly to finish on a protein-heavy note that leaves a slightly dry, almost chalky feeling on my tongue. It’s fine, but again, nothing at all remarkable, and doesn’t come close to any of the chocolate Combat Crunch bars, which in my opinion are the best in the game.

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Rating: 6/10

Quick Nutrition: Identical to above except 400mg sodium

REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Food Runners’ Banana Bread Pudding

Salt & Straw’s June Rescued Food line of ice creams is one of the most interesting and engaging things I’ve seen a craft company do, and San Francisco got blessed with some seriously amazing flavors. Joining forces with SF based Food Runners, they took all of the unused pastries from bay area startup meetings and put them to good use, instead of in the trash can. While Food Runners usually take these baked goodies and deliver them to people in need, this month S&S bought them from the company and turned them into the fantastic Food Runners’ Banana Bread Pudding, which combines a spiced banana ice cream with chunks of bread pudding and a sesame caramel swirl.

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This is not your standard banana ice cream. Immediately the distinct flavor of squishy over ripened bananas smacks me in the face, with a taste that is so different and much sharper than what many banana bases offer. There’s a cutting, almost syrupy sweetness to hyper-ripe bananas that comes through beautifully and is balanced out and complimented by the high quality dairy. Rounding out the profile is a healthy dose of nutmeg, and with the use of that spice the banana base BECOMES banana bread ice cream, as the unique strong banana flavor mingling with spices and sweet honey notes is instantly recognizable as one of the most beloved quick breads in the game.

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For the actual bread part of the bread pudding equation, S&S made a cinnamon-spiked custard and tossed all of those destined-to-be-garbage pastries into it to create one big mismatched wheel of flavor. This is one of the most interesting elements of the flavor, as every pint, and likely every scoop, is going to be slightly different. I had a massive chunk of what felt like layers of crunchy filo dough or some kind of pie crust, and a bite with raisins, and another bite that tasted like cinnamon roll streusel. It’s a lot of fun. The element of surprise makes digging into this ice cream pure enjoyment, and the undercurrent of the cinnamon flavor drives the banana bread essence even farther.

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The final piece to this bread pudding puzzle is the sesame caramel, which, like most S&S swirls, is executed with skill and finesse. When eaten in conjunction with the other components the caramel adds the sweetness and gooey-ness you’d expect, but is a lot less dark and burnt tasting than the standard S&S caramel. The caramel helps marry the other two elements together in ooey-harmony, but when you taste it on its own it absolutely bursts with sesame flavor. The unmistakable earthy flavor that drives tahini is very present in the sweet swirl and adds a deep savory quality to the experience that brings the rescued food theme home.

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Simply put, this is Salt & Straw at their absolute finest – mixing delicious decadent flavors with innovation and purpose in ways that not many brands can accomplish. There’s plenty of intense decadence out there without the creativity, and plenty of elevated ice cream churners without the whimsy, but S&S manage to achieve both simultaneously and this is a glowing example of what makes them some of the absolute best in the expanding world of gourmet ice cream.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Salt & Straw (San Francisco)

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REVIEW: Twizzler’s Filled Twists Flavor of Florida Key Lime Pie and Orange Cream Pop

Hershey’s are hell bent on us tasting the most iconic states in America.  From California’s Strawberry Kit Kat to Texas’ BBQ Payday, they want to make SURE we can put America in our mouth without leaving the couch.  In an effort to give sunny citrusy Florida its fair due, and apparently admitting they kind of screwed them by not giving them any chocolate, Hershey’s have TWO Flavors of Florida Twizzlers Filled Twists – Key Lime Pie and Orange Cream Pop.

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The Key Lime Pie twist immediately hits me with the one flavor I wasn’t expecting to taste at all – graham cracker crust.  I find this bizarre but kind of tasty, as I’m getting way more golden graham flavor than tart lime.  In fact, there’s so much crusty flavor going on that the usually insanely sweet Twizzler becomes slightly savory…and it’s kind of weird.  The balance is off, since key limes have a notoriously sweet-sour combo that define the typical profile of the pie, and there’s only a small bit of crust that lines the bottom – Hershey’s decided to flip this ratio upside down.

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The lime flavor is there, and comes through with a bit of pop towards the end, but the filling inside of this Twizzler must be crust-injected because it really is incredibly prominent.  There are no graham cracker crumbs listed in the ingredients, but the Hershey-scientists really did some impressive work to get the flavor in there, it just doesn’t have the right balance.  While it needs more citrus, I like the complexity this Twizzler offers, which isn’t something I ever expected to say about something neon green.

The Orange Cream Pop is much more what I was expecting the product to taste like.  It’s immediately sweet and citrusy with a soft vanilla cream center that perfectly mimics the popsicle on the front of the package.  I get that same sensation of the different textures that come in a Creamsicle, with the squishy licorice exterior taking place of the icy water-forward frozen pop, and the creamy filling playing the role of classic vanilla ice cream.  It’s pretty much perfectly executed as a familiar flavor, but I can’t help but feel like it’s also a really straight forward profile to pull off with ease.

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These Twizzlers are much more repeat-noshable for me than the Key Lime, and satisfy that sticky sweet licorice sensation that I want when choosing a candy like this.  I really enjoy the seasonal Caramel Apple Twizzlers, and they’re pretty much the only reason why I even batted an eye at this product in the first place.

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While neither of them are gross, they don’t really beckon me to want to eat much more either, but I’m kind of fascinated by how weird the Key Lime are, as it’s rare a candy tastes nothing like what I anticipated.  Both of these are fairly successful, but I wouldn’t recommend searching for these unless you absolutely love sticky sticks of sugar or are one of those people that think Creamsicles are the greatest frozen thing man ever invented (you know you’re out there..weirdos).

Key Lime Pie Rating: 6/10
Orange Cream Pop Rating: 7/10

Found at: CVS ($3.99 each)

REVIEW: Clancy’s Cinnamon Churro’s

When I wrote about my love for Cheetos Sweetos last month a reader of the blog from Kansas City reached out to me and told me to slow down and back up because I didn’t know a damn thing until I had Clancy’s Cinnamon Churros.  Okay…she didn’t really say it like that, but she said they were better, and a seasonal release from local grocery chain Aldi, and that if I really loved cinnamon sugar treats I needed to try them.  Out of the kindness of her heart she waited for them to pop back up on shelves and sent a bag all the way to the bay area so I could try the heralded regional brand, so today, I try and put to the test, Clancy’s Cinnamon Churros.

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Out of the bag these Cinnamon Churros look almost identical to the warm twisty braided bundles of yum from Taco Bell.  They have a huge, sharp, and defined cinnamon smell that more closely resembles sniffing a bottle of ground cinnamon than a bag of chips.  Biting in the crunch is serious.  They’re hard yet airy with a delightful flavor that, much like the smell, is more cinnamon-forward than sweet or salty.  The crunch is addictively fun, and the spice-level is spot on for someone like me that loves cinnamon.

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Unlike Sweetos, there’s no underlining butteriness and not a single sign of greasiness either.  The churros themselves are dry, but not in a bad way, more in a way that registers they were perfectly fried and dried so you get all the well-executed crunch factor without any leftover oil or undesirable texture.

The only thing I don’t like about these Churros is the fake sugar aftertaste when I finish a mouthful of cinny-delight.  I didn’t notice it immediately, but after a second handful I had a distinct Splenda zing on my tongue that was surprising and took away from the great spicy flavor.  Looking at the ingredients I wasn’t surprised at all to see sucralose listed right after cinnamon, and I find the use of the sweetener kind of puzzling.  While it does keep the sugar content low, at 3 grams per serving, these aren’t marketed as a diet food so why sacrifice the taste to shed a couple grams of sugar?  I eat plenty of products with sucralose in them, mostly protein bars and yogurt, but if I’m having a sweet and salty cinnamon snack I would prefer they just stick to their real sugar guns and give me the full cal goods.

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As far as cinnamon-factor goes, these ARE better than Cheetos Sweetos, but I’ve gotta be honest, they’re pretty different.  While these pack a huge crunch and authentic spice flavor, the Cheetos bring a softer butterier flavor that I enjoy just as much.  The saddest part in all of this for cinna-sluts like myself is that BOTH of these products are seasonal and will always be hard to come across.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Aldi Supermarkets

REVIEW: Haagen-Dazs Peanut Butter Salted Fudge

Peanut butter and chocolate.  One of the greatest flavor combinations known to man and no stranger to the magical melty world of ice cream.  It’s that hard to top yin and yang of sweet and salty and creamy and fatty that ultimately just equates to yummy and delicious.  As many times as companies have put their own stamp on the classic team up, we’re seventeen years into the 21st century and STILL getting new takes.  Brand new for this year, Haagen-Dazs try another spin on the sweet treat all star with Peanut Butter Salted Fudge, which combines peanut butter ice cream with chocolate covered peanuts and a salted fudge swirl.

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The peanut butter ice cream is smooth and sweet with a notable salty shine that immediately reminds me of biting into the iconic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.  Despite trying to emulate peanut butter, the base itself isn’t too heavy or dense and has a very nice light and creamy mouthfeel that is neither too soft or dense.

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The salted fudge ribbons help aid in the execution of the light yet decadent experience in that they start with a sweet cocoa flavor and finish with a strong saltiness that lingers with a little dance on my tongue.  The ribbon is mostly integrated throughout in thin sheets which gives most bites a much more chocolate peanut butter flavor than pure peanut butter, with neither flavor becoming too dominant over the other.  There are occasional larger chunks of the salted chocolate that deliver a quick burst of sweetness before melting away and beg me to keep on digging.

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As good as the other two components are, the real star of the show here is the chocolate covered peanuts.  I don’t think I’ve ever had chocolate covered peanuts in ice cream before and I’ll be damned if I don’t feel like I’ve been robbed of an incredible mix in for nearly 30 years of my life.  The peanuts have kept all the snap and crunch that makes them such an undeniable snack and work in perfect harmony with the ribbons and cream to emulate the frozen experience of eating the world’s best chocolate cup.  The flavor and texture immediately reminds me of Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar and all the elements combined taste exactly like Mr. Goodbar seduced a fine young Mrs. Reese’s and spawned the baby that is Peanut Butter Salted Fudge.

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This new release from Haagen-Dazs isn’t reinventing the wheel by any means but it delivers a fantastic take on chocolate peanut butter that is a welcome addition to a freezer aisle with many variations on the classic combo.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Safeway

REVIEW: Fit Joy Raspberry Chocolate Truffle and Cookies and Cream

Last years’ most prolific protein bar company, Fit Joy, are back at it again kicking off the first quarter of 2017 launching two new bars at the same time.  They went with one relatively uncharted flavor with Raspberry Chocolate Truffle, and tackled one that pretty much every competitor has already tried with Cookies and Cream.

Raspberry Chocolate Truffle:

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Visually this bar is great. A little bit of a different look for Fit Joy as there are no crisps on top and the protein base is noticeably softer with a marzipan-like texture. There’s a huge raspberry chocolate smell that is very floral and promising.

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The bite starts good, with a big bright raspberry flavor that lives up to the intense flowery aroma. Unfortunately, it takes an intense nose dive quickly as that powerful raspberry flavor becomes too much and is so overwhelmingly tart and sour that it literally made my face pucker.

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The way the bar dissolves on the tongue and the extreme tart-ness starts to taste like a kids Flintstones chewable vitamin and I’m left really wondering where the chocolate is. The thin dip on the bottom and drizzle on top can’t hold a candle to the epic tart berry flavor to a degree that chocolate may as well not be in the name or on the bar at all. Almost every other company that has released raspberry has done it with white chocolate, which helps up the sweetness and tame the tart. I was excited for a chocolate version but unfortunately this just doesn’t work at all. Sour, acidic, and ultimately kind of gross.

Rating: 5/10

Cookies and Cream:

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Visually this bar, again, is very appealing. The top is speckled with crunchy cookie bits and the inside base has a softer, fluffier texture than any other Fit Joy, kind of reminiscent of a whipped cream cheese. The flavor is full on chocolate, with both lighter milk chocolate and darker bitter being represented. There are so many different cocoa flavors going on that I even get hints of coffee, which adds to the rich bittersweet taste.

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This bar more closely resembles the experience of eating an Oreo than any other I’ve had – with the crunch and squish combo being very similar to wafer cookies sandwiching the iconic white Creme. There are softer whey crisps within the protein base as well, which adds multiple layers of crunch.

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I really like this bar. It has a solid smooth taste and texture without any weird lingering protein flavor and is overall really clean. My one criticism of it would be that it’s much more like a Chocolate Oreo than the original, which is fine, they should have just called it Cookies and Chocolate Cream instead.

Rating: 8.5/10

It ends up being a total split for Fit Joy entering 2017 with their worst bar and one of their best bars launching at the same time. While they don’t have the most explosive flavors out there (s/o Oh Yeah!) I continue to be impressed with their output and will try all Fit Joy bars in the future, even if some of them might totally miss the mark.